As part of a fresh crackdown on tax evasion, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is to be handed information on all credit and debit card payments to UK businesses for the very first time.
Under new powers, HMRC will be able to access information from the UK’s merchant acquirers i.e. the companies that process card payment transactions. This latest move will enable HMRC to find out the number and value of transactions carried out by a specific trader.
Despite this, no personal data identifying card owners and numbers will be made visible. However, this data will be used to ensure that traders have correctly accounted for all taxes due, resulting in a level playing field for all businesses.
HMRC estimates that this new credit and debit information could reduce the amount of fraudulent cases by over £50 million per annum.
David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said: "Tax evasion and the hidden economy costs the taxpayer £9 billion a year. While the majority of traders are honest, they may find themselves undercut by the minority who seek to lower prices by cheating the tax system.
"The Government has given HMRC nearly £1 billion to tackle fraud and evasion, and these new powers give HMRC an extra tool to ensure a level playing field between businesses, and also reduce opportunities for those who try and cheat the system."
Under the new legislation, HMRC has the power to gain access to data on card payments to all UK businesses over the last four years. The initial requests for card data will be sent to merchant acquirers this week. From 2014 onwards it will be an annual request.
HMRC’s sophisticated risking system, Connect, will be used to analyse all card data retrieved, with the ability to cross-reference and compare data with what the tax authority already holds.
This week HMRC launched the second stage of its evasion publicity campaign, with over 3,000 billboards located across the country, as well as a radio advertising campaign.
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